Year Zero? - by Alex Marchant
What a year it’s been!
A life-changing year. This month, and almost to the day as I write this, it’s been a whole year since I published my first book. A year in which, for the first time, I’ve been able to call myself an author. Not just wish for it, or dream about it, but actually introduce myself as an author.
And because I decided to launch my book on the anniversary of the birthday of my leading historical character (2nd October), I was able, courtesy of a totally unexpected, but rather fabulous invitation, to celebrate its first anniversary at the same time as his birthday – in his old home, surrounded by other devotees – and with cake! Lots of cake! (More on that later.)
Did I think a year ago just where I’d be now? No – not at all. My only aim was to get that book published – to master the labyrinthine processes needed to produce an ebook, and paperbacks via two different suppliers. And to adhere to US, as well as my own UK, tax regulations, because – really? – there would be money coming my way if – when – people began to buy it. It was quite late on in the process when I realized that last fact: I knew of course that the point of publishing the book was so that people to read it, but for them to do that they had to buy it (usually) – and in order for them to want to do that, I’d have to sell it to them. Marketing, promotion – that was something else I had to master.
The grand marketing plan still hasn’t been drawn up. I continue to promote on a very ad hoc basis. Some time this winter, when things are quieter, I’ll sit down and read all those ‘how to’ guides and plan properly – probably. But somehow, even without all that, the pre-orders began to roll in, then sales; I started to interact with complete strangers on social media who’d bought the book and enjoyed it; and, yes, sums of money mysteriously appeared in my bank account...
|...and in all sorts of currencies...|
The learning curve continued, if anything growing steeper. Three weeks before Christmas I had my first ‘public appearance’ since publication – it may have been only a local senior school fayre, but it still counted. People spoke to me seriously as an author, discussed the ins and outs of my particular period of history, and – I couldn’t quite believe it – bought my books. Quite a few of them. It gave me the confidence to start planning more face-to-face appearances for the coming year – and to say ‘yes’ when invitations arrived, even when my first instinct might have been to run a mile in the opposite direction.
|Two kind gentlemen helping me with publicity|
shots at Barnet Medieval Festival
Since then it seems I’ve hardly had time to turn around, with new experiences coming fast one upon another. With the release of the sequel, I now have the ‘full set’ to present and sell. (Though there is a third book underway, taking the lives of my fictional characters onwards, the first two books complete the story of King Richard III himself, which was what I originally set out to do.) And events and activities so far have included (all of them firsts): stalls at several medieval festivals; giving readings and talks at said festivals (the pinnacle being when, at Bosworth, a gunnery demonstration began in the main arena right on cue – just as I was describing the cannon-fire in my reading of the build-up to the battle from ‘The King’s Man’!); talks and question-and-answer sessions at schools and libraries; a videoed interview and reading alongside a fellow author at my first library event (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nnNrCeWnqs); a virtual book launch, plus two ‘bricks and mortar’ ones; upcoming attendance at my very first literary festival (Moulton, Northamptonshire). All things that a year ago would have had me running, terrified, for the hills.
Other ‘firsts’ include a recent invitation to review a fellow author’s recently submitted manuscript, with an eye to providing a quote for her cover (me?!), and putting out a tentative suggestion for a collaboration to produce an anthology of short fiction as a charity fundraiser. To my surprise, all eleven fellow authors I approached in the first instance were enthusiastic to become involved, so I’m currently busy editing my first contributory volume in support of Scoliosis Association UK (SAUK), which assists people with the same condition that King Richard had. With my new-found mantra of ‘Nothing ventured, nothing gained’, the title is Grant Me the Carving of My Name, used with permission of the poet laureate Carol Ann Duffy, from her poem ‘Richard’ read by Benedict Cumberbatch at the king’s reburial in 2015. And I’m currently waiting on tenterhooks for final confirmation of a contribution by another well-known ‘name’. All fingers and other extremities crossed…
|Cover image of the anthology|
kindly contributed by Riikka Katajisto
And that cake mentioned above? That was perhaps the most relaxing of my events so far this year. The manager of Middleham Castle in Wensleydale decided to throw a party for the 566th birthday of the most famous of the castle’s owners, namely King Richard, and she invited me along to cut the cake on his behalf. I’ve never been a ‘special guest’ before. It almost made me feel like a ‘real’ author…
|Cutting the cake iced in the King Richard's|
colours of murrey and blue. And it was very tasty.